Elder Care & Elder Rage: Know the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

Jacqueline Marcell - May 20, 2013 10:27 AM

For eleven years I pleaded with my ‘challenging’ elderly father to allow a caregiver help him with my ailing mother, but he always insisted on taking care of her himself. Every caregiver I hired soon sighed in exasperation, "Jacqueline, I just can't work with your father – his temper is impossible to handle. I don't think he’ll accept help until he's on his knees himself."

When my father’s inability to care for my mother nearly resulted in her death, I had to step in despite his loud protests. It was so heartbreaking as one minute he’d be my loving dad, and then some trivial little thing would set him off and he’d call me nasty names and throw me out of the house the next. I took him to several doctors, only to be flabbergasted that he could act completely normal and sane when he needed to.

Finally, I stumbled upon a neurologist specialized in dementia who put my parents through a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests and P.E.T. scans. After ruling out numerous reversible forms of dementia, such as a B-12 and thyroid deficiency, and evaluating their prescribed medications, I was stunned by the diagnosis of Stage One Alzheimer's in both of my parents – something all their other doctors missed entirely.

What I'd been coping with was the beginning of Alzheimer’s, which starts very intermittently and appears to come and go. I didn't understand that my father was addicted and trapped in his own bad behavior of a lifetime of screaming and yelling to get his way, but it was coming out in inconsistent spurts of irrationality. I also didn't understand that demented does not mean dumb (a concept not widely appreciated), and that he was still socially adjusted never to show his ‘Hyde’ side to anyone outside the family. Conversely, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.

Alzheimer's makes up 60-80 percent of all dementias and there's no stopping the progression nor is there yet a cure. However, if identified early, there are four medications (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda) that in many people can mask the symptoms, keeping a person in the early independent stage longer.

Once my parents were properly treated for Alzheimer’s, as well as the often-present depression in dementia patients, and then my father’s aggression, I was better able to manage the many challenging behaviors. Instead of logic and reason, I learned to use distraction and redirection. I also capitalized on their long-term memories and instead of arguing facts I lived in their realities of the moment. I learned to just ‘go with the flow’ and let hurtful comments roll off. And most importantly, I was finally able to get my father to accept two wonderful live-in caregivers. With the tremendous benefit of adult day health care five days a week for my parents and a support group for me, everything finally started to fall into place.

Alzheimer's disease afflicts more than 5.4 million Americans, but millions go undiagnosed for many years because early warning signs are chalked up to stress and a normal part of aging. Since one out of eight people by age 65 and nearly half by age 85 get Alzheimer’s, healthcare professionals of every specialty should know the 10 warning signs and help educate families so everyone can save time, money, and a fortune in Kleenex!


Jacqueline Marcell is the author of the best-selling book, ‘Elder Rage’, a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving 50+ endorsements, 400+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, required reading at numerous universities, and considered for a film. She is also an international speaker on Alzheimer’s, and also breast cancer which she survived after caring for her parents. She also speaks on caregiver stress and illness. www.ElderRage.com

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